Penn College Awarded Highly Competitive Child-Care Grant
Low-income parents will have greater access to postsecondary education under a $31,200 grant recently announced by Vice President Al Gore that will expand fee subsidies and add a toddler program to the Children's Learning Center at Pennsylvania College of Technology.
Penn College is among 87 recipients nationwide and one of only three institutions in Pennsylvania to receive funding in the first year of the Child Care Access Means Parents in School Act, a $4.9 million federal initiative to boost services to students with young children.
"Nurturing our children and furthering our education are among society's most essential responsibilities," said Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, College president. "This program recognizes the need to help student-parents get the education required for their own success, while providing affordable quality care to improve their children"s well-being."
It also recognizes the substantial reputation of the Children's Learning Center, which is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and which was among more than 400 applicants for funding in the first year of the four-year program.
"I think Penn College had an advantage in this grant competition because we already were subsidizing low-income students and providing high-quality child care, which are the two things this program was designed to do," said Karen Woland Payne, director of the Children's Learning Center. "The grant will enable us to expand the subsidies to serve additional students and to provide care for younger children."
Located on the first floor of the Bush Campus Center, the facility has provided child care and education for College students and staff since January 1994. It additionally serves as a "learning lab" for students in the Early Childhood Education major to observe and interact with youngsters as part of their course work in a variety of disciplines.
Responding to NAEYC accreditation guidelines for associate-degree granting Early Childhood programs, Penn College recently revised its curriculum to include a required Infants and Toddlers course. Funding to add the toddler program will improve service to those younger than 2 1/2, an age group that has been identified both within the College and the larger community as underserved, and will broaden students' exposure to children.
The grant money also will allow a sliding scale of child-care fees to include all Penn College students who are eligible for Pell grants. The College has been discounting fees for eligible full-time students since January 1998, when welfare cuts effectively eliminated government-funded child-care subsidies for low-income students.
U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., a co-sponsor of the CAMPUS legislation, applauded welfare reform's emphasis on work. But in its wake, he said, "new pressures are coming to bear on low-income student parents."
"Working students, evening students participating in daytime work programs, former public-assistance recipients now working, public-assistance recipients not yet assigned to work programs each of these will need campus child care to attend college and find a job they can keep," he said. "Studies are clear. Public-assistance recipients who attend college are significantly more likely to leave welfare . . . permanently."
Penn College's allocation is based on 1 percent of its prior year's Pell Grant expenditure: $3,120,820 awarded to students in the 1997-78 fiscal year. Other state recipients were Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which is earmarked to receive $73,602, and Northampton County Community College was allocated $16,086.
Nationally, the College joined such successful applicants as Columbia University, Auburn University, the University of North Carolina and California Polytechnic State University.